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The "Cool Stuff at PMA" Report
Interesting products we saw at the 2007 PMA show
by Allan Weitz

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The Photo Marketing Association’s annual show, held this year in Las Vegas, is the big boy of US camera shows. If you’re in the business and you have something you want everybody to know about, this is the place to show it off.

Although we had already caught wind of most of the new toys coming our way, PMA gave us our first chance to get hands-on with (or, in a couple of cases, within arm’s reach of) the latest and greatest.

The 2007 PMA Show in Las Vegas

When 17 Megapixels Just Isn’t Enough...
Some of us – not all of us, but certainly some of us – need as much resolution as we can get. For those in need, Hasselblad will be shipping the H3D-31 in April, a new 31Mp model that joins the H3D-22 (22Mp) and H3D-39 (39Mp) in Hasselblad’s digital lineup.

New high-end magic from Hassleblad
The H3D-31 knocks out exposures at the rate of 1.2 captures-per-second, as opposed to the 1.4 seconds the H3D-22 and 39 take to accomplish the same. Part of the speed gain is attributable to a slightly smaller - 44.2 x 3.1mm - CCD sensor as opposed to the 49 x 36.7mm CCDs found in the H3D-22 and H3D-39. When you’re chomping down huge files with every click of the shutter, this gain of processing speed is significant, especially for sports and action shooters who need meatier files than those captured by the best ‘35mm’ DSLRs.

Monster files aside, other features include shutter speeds that top-out (and flash sync) at 1/800th, a bright finder with a choice of TTL metering formats (including TTL-flash assist), FireWire 800 connectivity, extremely intuitive processing software, lossless compressed RAW files that can be recorded to CF cards or external drives, a well rounded choice of optics, and one of the coolest camera designs in town.

Digital Infra-Red for Under a Grand
If you’re aching to shoot infrared images digitally, but you don’t want to spend a ton of money to do so, Fuji has a camera worthy of your attention. The Fujifilm FinePix IS-1, expected to ship in April, is a 9.1Mp, DSLR-style digicam that, like last year’s Fuji S3 Pro IRUV, is set up to record - depending on your choice of filtering - infrared or UV images. And yes, the filters are included. The Fuji FinePix IS-1 features Live Video on the rear LCD, which is enormously helpful when shooting IR images through the all-but-opaque IR filter.

The camera's lens, a 28 – 300mm equivalent, is wide enough in range to capture most anything. Images can be recorded as JPEGs or RAW.

Affordable digital infrared from Fuji

Best of all the Fuji FinePix IS-1 is priced to sell for well under $1000; significantly less than the price of a Fuji S3 UVIR system.

Medium-Format Lensbabies

If you’ve been sitting around sniveling because you can’t use a Lensbabie on your medium-format camera, you can blow your nose and dry your eyes. Lensbabie 3Gs are now available for both the Pentax 6x7 and Mamiya 645 AF.

Lensbabie magic comes to medium format

The Pentax 6x7 version is 100mm with a focal-length range f/4 to f/45, while the Mamiya 645 AF version is an 80mm lens with an f-stop range of f/3.4 to f/39. To increase or decrease the depth of field you simply drop one of the magnetic apertures into the front of the lens (or no aperture at all) and off you go. As with the 35mm version of the Lensbabie 3G, the degree of adjustment can be locked in place via three threaded posts for repeatable, easier to tweak, imaging effects.

New Glass for the Panasonic Lumix DMC L1
If you shoot with a Panasonic Lumix L1 it’s time to start looking for a larger camera bag. A 25/1.4 Leica D (50mm equivalent, shipping in April) and 14 –150/3.5-5.6 Leica D (28 – 300 equivalent) zoom have been added to the lens arsenal of Panasonic’s 4/3-format DSLR. The 25/1.4 should prove to be of value to low-light shooters and those who like playing with selective focus, while the new zoom is the perfect focal length range for a one-lens/one body travel kit.

New glass...

Leica C-LUX 2
Leica’s new C-LUX 2, arriving in May, truly defines the ideal pocket camera. For starters this 7.2Mp puppy is quite small, and the brushed chrome body is, in typical Leica fashion, simple and elegant (the camera is also available in black). The Leica Vario-Elmarit ASPH, a 28-100mm equivalent, is wide enough for tight group shots or landscapes, and tight enough for a good headshot. For low-light applications where the camera flash cannot be used, Mega O.I.S enables sharp hand-held imaging, as well as an ISO that can be boosted up to 1250, or 3200 in High-Sensitivity mode.

There's a lot to like about Leica's new pocket camera

Despite its size, the Leica C-LUX 2 manages to squeeze in a 2.5” high-fidelity screen, which, like it’s Panasonic brethren, has a wide-angle viewing mode that makes composing pictures at high or low angles that much easier. Though built by Panasonic, Leica’s C-LUX 2 contains the same neutrally balanced image processor used in the Leica Digilux 3, and comes with a 2-year warranty.

Sekonic L-758 DR
Among all the hoopla, one professional product that stood out was the Sekonic L-758 DR; a light meter that approaches metering from a truly digital perspective.

Profile the color, tonality and true ISO sensitivity of your DSLR

Not just marketing hype, the Sekonic L-758DR enables you to accurately profile the tonality and true ISO sensitivity of your particular camera, which translates into less time ‘correcting’ your images in Photoshop down the pike.

The Sekonic L-758DR retains profiles of up 3 cameras in memory. Many things can be corrected in Photoshop, and many things can’t be corrected. The goal should be to get it right in the first place, and that’s where the Sekonic L-758DR comes into the picture.

The Sekonic L-758DR comes with everything you need to calibrate your camera’s CCD or CMOS sensor. Once you go through the relatively easy process, you’ll know exactly how your camera responds to any source of flash of ambient light. Even if you change ISO ratings, you will be nailing robust image files that display saturated, accurately rendered color with far less chance of clipping the extremities of your image files. If you take color management and accurate color seriously, Sekonic’s L-758DR is well worth a closer look.

Note- You must purchase a Sekonic Exposure Profile Target (401-757) in order to profile your camera.

Canon PowerShot TX1
From a design standpoint, Canon's PowerShot TX1, expected to ship in April or May, is a true break from previous PowerShot molds. Size-wise, it is similar to the Elph-series cameras, but that's where the comparisons stop. If anything the TX1's vertically oriented, stainless steel body bears a closer resemblance to a hand-held spot meter or camcorder.

While quite pocketable when asleep, the 7.1 Mp PowerShot TX1 spreads its wings when powered up. The 10x, optically stabilized power-zoom (39 - 390mm equivalent) pops out of the front of the camera housing and a variable-angle 1.8" wide-view LCD swivels out of its side. According to Canon's blurb sheets the TX1's LCD screen is resistant to scratches, reflections, and fingerprints. How did they make the screen fingerprint-proof? We have no idea… but it's a neat feature.

7.1 Mp PowerShot with HD video

The TX1 incorporates the speed and image-optimizing capabilities of Canon's new DIGIC III Image Processor, updated Face Detection Technology, and Red-Eye Correction. For low-light applications, or for those times you’d rather not use the camera's flash, the ISO rating of the sensor can be pushed up to 1600.

Video buffs will be happy to know the TX1 can capture 1280 x 720 HD movies at 30fps complete with Face Detection, stereo sound, and 1080i component video playback.

A CoolPix to Match the Drapes?
It’s no secret that, for some, cameras are - along with cell phones and PDA-type doodads - fashion statements. For these folks, the question isn’t ‘How many megapixels does it have’, but ‘Does it come in plaid?’ Many manufacturers including Canon, Kodak (Kodak’s color schemes were way off the charts), and others are making cameras in all sorts of colors and attitudes suited to please little Suzy as well as Betty - the Goth-influenced girl next door.

A camera for every wardrobe...

Please note - If the thought of a Lavender Elph makes you nervous rest assured there are currently no plans to discontinue digicams finished in the more traditional brushed chrome and black.

Olympus Woody-cam?
Perhaps in reaction to this new synthetic rainbow world of digicams, Olympus has gone back to the garden and come up several concept cameras made out of wood. Specifically, they are wood bodies with traditional digital technology and optics under the bark.

Satisfy your inner Luddite with this Olympus prototype

More of a design exercise for now, the folks at Olympus indicated they just might follow through with the concept. Though technically and mechanically the same as conventional digicams, the novelty of wood cameras is that - since no two pieces of wood are the same - no two cameras would be the same, making each camera one-of-a-kind.

Leica 'R' Adapter

for 4/3-Format Cameras
If you own a 4/3-Format DSLR from Panasonic or Leica you now have the option of shooting with Leica 'R' lenses using an adapter Leica has introduced that will allow you to attach Leica reflex lenses ranging from 30mm to 1600mm. The good news is that you will be able to take photos using the best glass money can buy. The bad news is that there's no communication - and therefore no data transmission - between the lens and the camera. But then again, the good news far outweighs the bad news.

A new adapter for Leica 'R' lenses

Teasers @ PMA
It wouldn’t be a PMA show without a few hints of things to come. This time around Sony, Olympus, and Pentax showcased glass-enclosed teasers. Sony had two prototype DSLRs, one tagged as a ‘DSLR for the High Amateur’ – that’s Sony’s wording… not ours - and the other as a ‘Flagship’ DSLR. The ‘High Amateur’ resembled a beefed-up Alpha A100, while the ‘Flagship’ had the more-serious stance and brawn of a Canon Mark-series camera. As for specs and delivery dates, Sony offered courteous smiles and nothing more. So stay tuned - especially all of you High Amateurs out there.

A few models, like these two DSLRs from Sony and Olympus, were playing hard to get

Pentax’s teaser sat under a curved glass dome in the form of a 645 DSLR, which was simply labeled ‘Pentax 645 Digital Camera’. Aside from a 55/2.8 lens and a 645-sized CCD sitting alongside an APS-C CCD sensor, there were no further comments from anybody at the Pentax booth.

The third teaser came from Olympus, which displayed a glass-enclosed prototype camera with a hangtag labeled ‘The Next E-Pro Concept Camera’. Asked for details about the camera - you guessed it - they couldn’t really say. Use your imagination. Your guess is probably not too far off.

While the folks at Olympus tease us with wood cameras, the folks at LensCoat are busy figuring out ways to make your lenses look like they’re made out of wood…or leaves…or any number of camouflage patterns.

Just make sure you don't drop it in the grass...

LensCoats are made from padded, closed-cell neoprene skins that when fitted to your favorite high-speed zoom lens allow you to blend into your surroundings. If you shoot wildlife, you know how easy it is to scare off every living thing within 50 yards every time you lift that bright white telephoto lens. LensCoats greatly reduce the chance of being spotted before you hit the shutter button.

Camouflage aside, LensCoats also protect the finish of your lenses from scratches and dings and serve as a thermal barrier between your skin and metal lens surfaces when shooting in colder climates. Custom designed to fit most all prime zooms and fixed focal-length lenses from 200 to 600mm, clear UV-PVC windows allow for viewing and access to AF/IS/VR controls as well as distance-scale windows. For those who have no immediate desire to blend into the surroundings but still want the protective benefits of LensCoats, they are also available in Canon White and Black.

And Lastly, Something Long & Fast from Sigma
O.K. everybody, get out your pack mules. Sigma has introduced what they describe as 'the world's first Ultra-Telephoto Zoom lens' - the Sigma APO 200-500/2.8 EX DG. And yes, that f2.8 is a constant f2.8. As for the size of this lens, let's just say it would look right at home hanging off the wing of a 747. It is huge.

Producing a lens of this sort was no mean feat. According to Sigma, the new lens incorporates 4 Special Low Dispersion glass elements as a means of maintaining high levels of optical performance and minimal levels of optical aberrations throughout the zoom range. For filtering, there's a filter-draw towards the rear of the lens that also allows for rotating Polarizers.

Size and specs aside, the imaging possibilities made possible with this lens are enormous; just make sure you have a serious tripod with you because you might hurt yourself lifting this rig to your eyes.

Included with each lens is an optically-matched 2x teleconverter that converts this baby into a 400-1000/5.6 lens. Keep in mind if you plan on using this lens on an APS-sized DSLR (1.5x FOV) it is effectively a 300-750/2.8, or a 600-1500/5.6 with the 2x converter.

Alas, this amazing lens is somewhat of a teaser in its own right as pricing and availability are - you guessed it - not available.

Stay tuned.

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